What it is: Apple partnered with Hertz while Google partnered with Avis to pursue self-driving technology.
Both Apple and google have new partners in the self-driving car market. Google already signed a partnership with Avis while Apple just signed an agreement with Hertz. What both companies plan to do with these partnerships remains a mystery, but it’s a safe bet that it involves self-driving cars.
Most likely, neither Hertz nor Avis will rent out self-driving cars. What they will likely do is test self-driving car technology to provide data for Apple and Google. Since self-driving technology relies on machine learning, the more data both companies can collect, the better the self-driving technology will get.
Keep in mind that Apple invested $1 billion dollars on China’s ride-sharing service, Didi Chuxing, which provides more rides per day in China than any other ride-sharing service in the world including Uber. Apple likely doesn’t care about ride-sharing as much as they care about collecting driving data from one of the most congested parts of the world. Since self-driving technology will eventually reach ride-sharing services, Apple’s investment in Didi Chuxing simply gives it access to more driving data than any other company.
The leap to self-driving cars will come slowly. For specific uses such as shuttles around a predictable track, self-driving technology can work today. For general use of most people driving around the streets of today, self-driving technology can only work as assisted-driving technology where the driver remains in control, but computers provide assistance when necessary. For example, if the computer determines that your car will collide with another one, it can automatically slam on the brakes.
Assisted-driving will come today while self-driving technology will come tomorrow. Both Apple and Google are simply planning for the long-term future. It won’t pay dividends now or even in the next five years, but it is the future. In the meantime, Microsoft doesn’t appear to have any self-driving technology research going on, which means Microsoft will miss out on the self-driving market when it finally arrives.
It’s not hard to see the future if you only look. What’s hard is looking for the future and then taking time now to plan for it despite not getting immediately benefits. Apple and Google are planning far head. Other companies are not. Can you guess who will survive in the future?